National Railway Authority insight

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President Joseph Nyuma Boakai is expected to sign an executive order to establish the Liberia National Railway Authority (LNRA), marking a significant step towards enhancing and regulating the country’s railway infrastructure.  This initiative aims to optimize the use of Liberia’s strategic railway assets for economic growth and national development. “The Government of Liberia owns several key railway assets that are vital for our national infrastructure,” said the draft executive order, seen by the Daily Observer. “These assets include the Yekepa Railway, which runs from Yekepa in Nimba County through Bong County to the Port of Buchanan in Grand Bassa County; the Bong Range, concessioned to China Union, terminating at the Freeport of Monrovia; the Western Cluster, also terminating at the Freeport of Monrovia; the Cavalla Mining/BHP Billiton Range from Upper Grand Bassa County; and the Putu Mining Range in Grand Gedeh County.” The National Rail Authority will also be a precursor to the much heralded Liberty Corridor, a state-of-the-art rail infrastructure to be developed by HPX, running from Mount Nimba in Guinea to a deep water port  in Grand Bassa County. This infrastructure will also be owned by the Liberian government, with HPX as an anchor customer.  The executive order, when signed by President Boakai, would stand as an expression of the Government’s commitment to developing and enhancing these railway assets to support the export of minerals and other goods, thus benefiting the Liberian economy and its citizens.  “These legacy infrastructures have been underutilized and unregulated, which has negatively impacted our nation,” the draft executive order states, indicating that these rail assets would no longer exclusively be used by and for iron ore mining interests, which has primarily been the case for decades. And with Agriculture at the top of President Boakai’s ARREST agenda, access to reliable, efficient transport from remote areas could be a boon for farmers seeking to access markets, both in-country and externally. The use case is not far-fetched. Local farmers and traders are already using the Bong Range rail infrastructure to deliver produce and other goods to markets at various points between Bong Mines and Monrovia using wooden push carts, called “make-a-rail’. The draft order also affirms a treaty with the Government of Guinea, known as the Implementation Agreement, which facilitates the export of Guinean products via Liberia. “This agreement, recognized by Guinea on February 18, 2020, and by Liberia on May 6, 2021, is a testament to our commitment to regional cooperation and economic development,” the draft order says.  As per the agreement between Liberia and Guinea, the Liberia National Railway Authority will oversee the non-exclusive use of the rail asset, currently granted to ArcelorMittal Liberia under a mineral development agreement. Additionally, the Government has committed to providing access to Ivanhoe Liberia Limited and Societe des Mines de Fer de Guinée (SMFG) under a framework agreement, which supports the use of Liberian infrastructure for their approved projects. “We are committed to the core principles of open, non-discriminatory access to railway and port infrastructure,” the draft order says. “This ensures fair usage by all eligible users, including local companies and mining operators, in line with best international practices and standards.” The Liberia National Railway Authority will be responsible for licensing, regulating, and monitoring railway operations, ensuring safety and adherence to standards. It will also develop transportation policies and plans for the movement of goods and people, both domestically and for transit from neighboring countries. “Nothing in this Executive Order shall interfere with or diminish the rights of any Eligible User to access the Liberian Infrastructure Assets, but this Executive Order shall instead be interpreted such as to enhance and to promote the overall benefit of the Liberian Infrastructure Assets to the Republic of Liberia and its citizens,” the draft order said. Furthermore, the Authority will manage the integration of railway traffic with port facilities, honoring all existing legal commitments and maintaining the infrastructure. An independent operator will be appointed to oversee the development and coordination of the railway system, ensuring fair and efficient use by all eligible users. “This executive order signifies a major advancement in Liberia’s infrastructure development,” the draft order says. “The establishment of the Liberia National Railway Authority is expected to promote sustainable development and improve the overall welfare of the Liberian people. By: David A. Yates /Lib Latest News231

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